The Forest Rights Act

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An “Unbroken History of Broken Promises” – Govts Violate Forest Rights from 2002 to the Present

Time line Reference Remarks
03 May 2002 IG Forests, MoEF directs that ‘All encroachments which are not eligible for regularisation as per guideline by this Ministry vide No.13.1/90-FP(1) dated 18.9.90 should be summarily evicted in a time bound manner and in any case not later than 30th September 2002’; cited the order dt. 23.11.2001 of the Supreme Court as a basis even though this order never ordered evictions. The cut off period for eligibility for regularisation was 25 October 1980. Brutal eviction drives begin, which continued for the next three years evicting several lakhs. Evictions were carried out from 1,52,400.110 hectares of forest land between May 2002 and March 2004, out of a total of about 13.43 lakh hectares of encroachment of which 3,65,669.111 hectares were regularised till then.
10 October 2002 Govt. of Maharashtra issued an order on recognition of land rights in forests (Res Sankirn 2002 / 372/J-1) creating a mechanism comprising of village and taluka level committees set up to verify claims filed before Gram Sabhas for regularisation of land rights over forest areas. This order subsequently served as a model for later Central orders (see below), and also partly for the Forest Rights Act.
10 October 2002 and 30 October 2002 The Inspector General of Forests, MoEF issued a clarification to Chief Secretaries of the States that its 1990 orders for regularization of pre-1980 encroachment were valid while showing ‘progress on the eviction of ineligible encroachments Forest rights had not been recognised; instead all forest dwellers were labeled as encroachers. These orders had no effect.
10 January 2003 Amendment to replace FCA Rules 1981 The focus shifts to faster and easy forest clearance for which a number of steps were taken by MoEFCC.
03.02.2004 MoEF issues an order to step up conversion of forest villages into revenue villages reiterating 18.09.1990 order No.30-1/90-FP (5). Only 384 forest villages were converted to revenue villages. There are 2,690 forest villages. Only eligible category of pre-1980 encroachment shall be considered for regularisations. Forest villages in National Park and Sanctuary required clearance from National Board of Wildlife and Supreme Court. Traditional rights of inhabitants of forest villages on forest lands outside the village boundaries are to be documented. Directed that tribal rights shall be regularised across the country within one year, Not much response from the States.
05 February 2004 MoEF issues an order for regularisation of the traditional rights of the tribals on the forest lands as heritable inalienable rights extending the date for eligibility from 24.10.1980 to 31.12.1993 within a period of one year, the centre will approach the Supreme Court for regularisation and forest diversion, provision of equivalent non-forest land to be provided for inclusion as forest land, eviction of all other encroachments, The implementation of guidelines for “Regularization of the rights of the tribals on forest lands” issued vide MoEF’s letter No. 2-1/2003-FC(Pt) dated – 5.2.2004 was stayed by the Supreme Court vide their order dated – 23.2.2004 in IA No. 1126 in IA No. 703 in WP(C) No. 202 of 1995.
21 July 2004 MoEF filed an affidavit in the ‘forest case’ conceding that rights of forest dwellers in forest areas are being violated, accepted that the 1990 Guidelines for regularisation of land rights were not properly implemented, there has been a ‘historical injustice’ due to the government’s failure to recognise the traditional rights of the tribal forest dwellers which ‘must be finally rectified’ [IA No. 1126 in IA No. 703 in Writ Petition (C) No. 202 of 1995]. This got reflected in the Preamble of Forest Rights Act as ‘the forest rights on ancestral lands and their habitat were not adequately recognised in the consolidation of State forests during the colonial period as well as in independent India resulting in historical injustice to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem’.
21 December 2004 MoEF admitted that the 1990 Guidelines were not properly implemented, and that the evictions in 2002 showed failure to recognise rights by State governments and ordered for discontinuance of eviction and ‘as an interim measure, they should not resort to eviction of tribal people and forest dwellers other than ineligible encroachers till the complete survey is done for the recognition of such people and their rights after setting up of District level Committees involving a Deputy Collector, a Sub-Divisional Forest Officer, and a representative of Tribal Welfare Department’, (reiterated again on 12 May 2005 and 17 October 2005 Widespread protests continue. So does evictions.
03 January 2005 MoEF issues guidelines for diversion of forest land for 11 facilities viz i. Schools, ii. Dispensary hospital, iii. Electric and telecommunication lines, iv. Drinking Water, v. Rain water harvesting structures, vi. Minor irrigation canal, vii. Non-conventional sources of energy, viii. Skill up-gradation vocational training center, ix. Power sub-stations, x. Communication posts; and xi. Police establishments. These shall be less than one hectare in each case, should not involve felling of more than fifty trees per hectare and should be outside Protected Areas. The proposal is to be approved by the State and processed by the Forest Department. This was incorporated as Sec.3(2) of FRA with modification. The order ceased to be operative when FRA was enacted.
12 May 2005 MoEF clarifies that cut off date for regularisation is occupation prior to 25.10.1980 and those not eligible alone should be evicted. Widespread protests since 2002 reiterating the laws and asserting rights combined with repeated orders and the forest rights law-making process considerably slows down evictions.
03 November 2005 MoEF issued guidelines for the verification and recognition of rights of forest dwellers on forest land, through village committees, and taluka and district level committees comprising representatives from the Revenue, Tribal and Forest departments along with the Panchayat Raj structure where the forest officials are the secretaries of all these committees. Claims for forest rights applied not only to individual land for settled agriculture, but also ‘claims over forest products from surrounding forests based on customary use and/or use permitted by earlier princely state/zamindari regimes’ as well as ‘claims of shifting cultivators and pre-agricultural communities’. By then drafting of FRA, begun in 19 January 2005 when the Prime Minister’s Office directed the drafting of the Bill, was in its final stages anyway; this was a desperate attempt by MoEF to put together something that resembled FRA but controlled by forest bureaucracy to scuttle FRA under the guise that MoEF now has issued a guideline similar to FRA (without any legal backing) and so why is there a need for a law like FRA. However, this was ignored by the government. MoEF drafted two parallel Bills, the Draft Model State/Union Territory Minor Forest Produce (Ownership Rights of Forest Dependent Community) Act, 2005 for the States and Union Territories to adopt with powers to define who are the forest dependent communities, keeping the Protected Areas out of the ambit of this law and ensuring that the Forest Department retains overall control. MoEF then drafted the Forest Rights (Recognition and Vesting) Bill, 2005 to displace the MoTA draft. The government ignores them.
31 November 2005 MoEF issues further order on recognition of pre-1980 rights. It allowed a variety of evidences, including oral evidence, to be adduced to establish eligibility, and instituted a three-tier recognition process for pre-1980 land rights (village level, taluka level and district level committees), included rights over minor forest produce, shifting cultivation, customary use, etc. This order was based on the 10.10.2002 Maharashtra Government Order; also similar in many ways to FRA draft. This was an attempt to ensure that the forest rights remains in their control and to pre-empt FRA Bill, which was already in the public domain for comments since 03 June 2005, from being enacted.
14 March 2018 MoEFCC issues the Draft National Forest Policy 2018 to replace National Forest Policy, 1988. Draft National Forest Policy, 2020 is finalized and under consideration for adoption. MoEFCC does not have the sole prerogative over forests as per Government of India Allocation of Business Rules. MoTA is vested with the subject of forest rights since 2006. MoTA, and FRA and its Gram Sabha governance structures were ignored in policy formulation. This draft Policy was commercial plantation-centric investment seeking forest management through privatisation of forests under the rubric of private-public participation aimed at increasing tree cover and productivity to meet industrial and other needs disregarding the legal reality that over half of the forest now falls within the jurisdiction of Gram Sabhas under FRA 2006.
19 June 2018 The Tribal Affairs Secretary wrote to the Environment Ministry Secretary that the environment ministry does not have ‘exclusive jurisdiction’ to frame policies related to forests and is required to consult the Tribal Affairs Ministry as well as forest dwellers before drafting the policy, ‘disregarded the traditional custodians and conservatives of the forests, namely, tribals‘, gave ‘a thrust to increased privatisation, industrialisation and diversion of forest resources for commercialisation’ and ‘that the public private partnership models for afforestation and agroforestry detailed in the policy will open up the areas over which tribals and forest dwellers have legal rights under FRA,” Even before the draft policy became the national policy, some state governments hastily drafted State Forest Policy on similar lines as this draft and even notified, for instance Tamilnadu in 2018 which now contradicts the existing 1988 Policy as no new national policy has been notified till date.
07 March 2019 MoEFCC circulated the draft of the Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 2018, overhauling the Indian Forest Act 1927. The forest staff can shoot anyone in the name of forest protection and no criminal action will be taken if they say that this was done in accordance with law [Section 66(2)]; end the forest rights of any forest dweller in the name of forest protection by just paying them a paltry sum of money [Section 22A(2), 30(b)]; conduct raids and arrests without warrant; confiscate the property of any forest dweller. If the forest department accuses anyone of possessing any illegal objects, the accused will have to prove innocence and not the accuser. If the proposal becomes law, it will be the end of the rule of law in the forests. If enacted, the law would override Forest Rights Act 2006 and Gram Sabhas. The Ministry hastily disowned the draft in November when faced with widespread opposition for its draconian provisions unheard of in a democracy. The Minister said: ‘We are completely withdrawing the draft amendment to the Indian Forests Act to remove any misgivings, the tribal rights will be protected fully and they will continue to be the important stakeholder in forest development’.
14 November 2019 MoEFCC gives a free hand to the State to freely develop their own criteria to frame the ‘definition of forests’, including deemed forests, which ‘need not be subject to approval of MoEF&CC‘; therefore the States are free to decide what constitutes forests in their State. This also gives a free hand to the State Forest Department to legalise the past illegalities, if any, in defining what constitutes forests, in the forest settlement operations and in extending and/or application of the Forest Department’s jurisdiction over land and resources including on revenue lands over which afforestation has been carried out. This would promote contestations and conflicts.
March 2020 MoEFCC issues draft Environment Impact Assessment notification to replace Environment Impact Assessment notification 2006 and its subsequent amendments for the purpose of imposing certain restrictions and prohibition on undertaking some projects or expansion or modernization of such existing projects entailing capacity addition. The draft makes no reference to FRA, forest rights and Gram Sabha consent when Gram Sabha is the statutory authority under the law entrusted to protect Community Forest Resource areas, the water catchment area and habitat under Sec.5 of FRA read with Sec.3(1)(i) in case where the project is located on forest land or, if not, close to forests sufficient to have adverse impact.
22 June 2021 MoEFCC issued a tender calling for Expression of Interest For Short-listing of Consultancy Organizations for Preparing draft comprehensive amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 with its extended last date of submission at 7 July 2021. Seen in the context of the hastily aborted 2019 draft from within the MoEFCC, this is a renewed attempt to distance itself away from the drafting through proxy. If enacted, it would override FRA.
06 July 2021 The second development, considered momentous by both the Tribal and Environment Ministry, is the signing of ‘Joint Communication for more effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act’ to indicate ‘a paradigm shift from working in silos to achieving convergence between Ministries and Departments

1. Says there has been no conflict with regard to legal framework. Continued evictions despite a stay from Supreme Court, non implementation of FRA and WLPA provisions with regard to Tiger Reserves, forest diversions under Forest ConservatioN Act 1980 (FCA), relocation from Protected Areas, compensatory afforestation, land acquisition under LARR 2013 etc

2. MoTA is the nodal ministry charged with forest rights under Allocation fo Business Rules and implementation of FRA, for clarifications, directives etc and not MoEFCC. The view of MoTA overrides that of MoEFCC. By adopting the principle of collective view on FRA on all matters of FRA MoTA, in effect, is abdicating its responsibility which is illegal.

3. Implementation of FRA is entrusted to the state by law with Tribal Department as the nodal department. Requiring the state to issue necessary orders to state Forest Department to take lead in FRA, particularly in CFR [Sec 3(1)(i) and Rule 4(1)(e)] is illegal. The state has no powers to issue such an order; it is a violation of the FRA, only MoTA can issue, and Forest Department cannot be entrusted with what the nodal department is required to do.

4. Forest Department carrying out projects related to NTFP collection, processing, marketing etc under MOTA schemes is no longer permissible as NTFP with regard to FRA rights is not with Forest Department but the Gram Sabha.

Forest Rights Act 2006
17 March 2006

Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

– NOTE:- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will be responsible for overall policy in relation to forests, except all matters, including legislation, relating to the rights of forest dwelling Schedule Tribes on forest lands (Inserted vide Amendment series no.285 dated 17.03.2006), pg. 52

Ministry of Tribal Affairs

– 5A. All matters including legislation relating to the rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes on forest lands (Inserted vide Amendment series no.285 dated 17.03.2006), pg.150

All matters regarding forest that may impinge on forest rights require consultation with MoTA. MoEFCC has no longer have monopoly over forest.
29 December 2006 Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) enacted.

An Act to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling

Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded; to provide for a framework for recording the forest rights so vested and the nature of evidence required for such recognition and vesting in respect of forest land.

01 January 2008 Rules to Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) notified. Operationalises FRA. Includes the Amendments of 6 September 2012. FRA “assigned rights to protect around 40 million hectares of community forest resources to village level democratic institutions”, said the 2009 Forestry Outlook Study of the MoEFCC which is 56% of the recorded forest area in some 1.79 lakh villages, each with a number of hamlets,.
30 January 2008

Challenge to Constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act filed in Supreme Court

The petitioners are:

1. Bombay Natural History Society

2. Wildlife Trust of India

3. All Assam Tribal Youth League

4. Wildlife Society of India

Bombay Natural History Society and Wildlife Trust of India withdrew from the case later.
05 February 2008 Directions issued by Ministry of Panchayati Raj to the State governments to expeditiously implement the Forest Rights Act
24 March 2008 On 24.3.2008 a second writ petition was filed by Wildlife First, Nature Conservation Society and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of FRA.

Whether the Parliament has the authority to legislate on forest rights

Whether FRA is unconstitutional

Whether FRA is harmful to forests and wildlife


2007 to

March 2008

Writ petitions filed in various High Courts challenging the constitutional validity of FRA in several High Courts namely:

 Andhra Pradesh (WP 21479/2007)

 Madras – Madurai Bench (WP(MD) 533/2008)

 Bombay (PIL 21/2008)

 Madras (WP 4533/2008)

 Karnataka (WP 1392/2008)

 Orissa (WP 4933/2008)

Another writ was petition in July 2008 in the Jabalpur Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court


All these writ petitions are largely identical cut and paste versions of each other. All the writ petitions, except the one pending in Madurai Bench, are filed by retired forest officers.
09 June 2008 MoTA clarifies that the phrase ‘primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for bona fide livelihood needs’ does not mean they should necessarily reside inside the forest; it is sufficient that they depend on the forests.
18 May 2009 MoTA prescribes the procedure for seeking prior approval for diversion of forest land for facilities managed by government under Sec.3(2) of FRA. This includes not more than one hectare per project, not more than 75 trees to be cut and Gram Sabha consent mandatory. 13 public facilities can be set up under this provision. These do not require forest clearance under Forest Conservation Act 1980.
23 April 2015 MoTA to Chief Secretaries of States: Guidelines under Section 12 with regard to recognition and vesting of Community Forest Resources (CFR) and its management under Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) issued. Gram Sabha ‘shall be free to develop its own simple format for conservation and management plan of the CFR’, ‘shall be the authority to modify the micro plan or working plan of management plan of the Forest Department’; CFR ‘areas as recognized under Section 3(1)(i) of FRA shall constitute a new category of forest areas which should be recorded as ‘CFRs’ in the Record of Rights and be suitably incorporated in the records of the Forest Department‘.
13 February 2019 Supreme Court directs various State governments to report on the status of people’s claims for their traditional rights over lands, forest and forest resources under the Forest Rights Act, and that claimants whose rejections have ‘attained finality’ should now be evicted. Supreme Court puts on hold the eviction order on 28 February 2019. The States are to review the rejected claims as the States reported that rejections have been grossly in violation of FRA.
Compliance with FRA for Forest Diversions under Forest Conservation Act 1980 (FCA)
03 August 2009 MoEFCC reissues its order of 31.07.2009 on compliance of Forest Rights Act 2006 in the case of all forest diversions for non-forest purposes under the Forest Conservation Act 1980. FRA implementation and Gram Sabha consent for diversion are preconditions for admissibility of the forest diversion proposals. Before land is diverted for non forest-use, Gram Sabhas have to certify that the FRA is implemented in the proposed area and give consent for the diversion of land. The state government too have to confirm that the project proposal was placed in front of all Gram Sabhas that govern that land and that FRA has been implemented and the Gram Sabha agreed to the diversion. From 2009 to 2019, 253,179 ha were diverted for non-forestry purposes while another 182,817 ha, of which 26% (47,435 ha) was degraded forests, were diverted for tree plantations to compensate the former diversion, under ‘compensatory afforestation’. The extent to which the order was complied with in letter and spirit has never been reported or monitored by MoEFCC, MoTA or the State Level Monitoring Committee or the Tribal Department. There has been no known instance when any alternative land or rights or compensation was provided for the forest rights that were lost or denied as the case may be, due to these diversions.
23 September 2010 MoEFCC issues guidelines for the use of CAMPA NPV money towards rehabilitation of people relocated from forests and protected areas. This money is obtained by forest diversion from user agencies without Gram Sabha consent or with dubious Gram Sabha consent where forest rights are violated, not settled nor compensated.
05 February 2013 MoEFCC informs Principal Secretaries (Forests) of all States that an inter-ministerial committee has recommended that Gram Sabha resolution giving consent for forest diversion ‘may not be required for the projects like construction of roads, canals, laying of pipelines/ optical fibres and transmission lines etc where linear diversion of use of forest land in several villages are involved, unless recognised rights of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG) and Pre-Agricultural Communities (PAC) are being effected’. MoEFCC does not have the authority to issue such an order exempting FRA; it is illegal as the law does not permit any exemption.
26 September, 2013 The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR). Includes ‘development of alternate fuel, fodder and non-timber forest produce resources on non-forest lands within a period of five years, …fishing rights in a river or pond or dam in the affected area shall be given fishing rights in the reservoir area of the irrigation or hydel projects….the community rights…shall be quantified in monetary amount and be paid to the individual concerned who has been displaced due to the acquisition of land in proportion with his share in such community rights…must be provided, where possible, with their forest rights on non-timber forest produce and common property resources.. close to the new place of settlement ..or.. continue to enjoy their earlier rights to the aforesaid sources of livelihood’. Exempts 13 other central land acquisition laws from the purview of this law (See Fourth Schedule of RFCTLARR).
15 January 2014 MoEFCC to Principal Secretaries (Forest) states that project proposals other than linear projects requires certificates from the District Collector including Gram Sabha consent and do not require Gram Sabha consent for linear projects. MoEFCC reiterated that this is ‘after consultation and concurrence of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, linear projects, except those involving recognised rights of Primitive Tribal Groups are Pre Agricultural Communities, are exempted from requirement of obtaining consent for such projects from each concerned Gram Sabha’. MoEFCC does not have the authority to issue such an order exempting FRA; it is illegal as the law does not permit any exemption.
07 March 2014 MoTA wrote to all State governments that the Supreme Court judgement of 18 April 2013 in the Niyamgiri Case clearly held that the FRA applies to all projects; Gram Sabha consent is required even for linear projects. MoTA also reminded that it is the nodal Ministry for forest rights; hence orders from other ministries such as the 5 February 2013 should not be honoured, as it is not in accordance with law. Further that ‘circulars dated 5th February 2013, 5th July 2013 and 15th January 2014 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests are also against the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’. (See above) These clarifications continue to be flouted by MoEFCC.
2014 and 2016 Rules to the Forest Conservation Act 1980 amended. The District Collectors, the Chairperson of the District Level Committee under FRA, is now to ensure that forest rights under FRA are fully recognised and Gram Sabha consents are obtained from the concerned Gram Sabhas and to issue a certificate to this effect. This certificate is now to be attached to the proposal for forest diversion. MoEFCC absolves itself of the responsi9bility of ensuring FRA implementation and Gram Sabha consent. District Collector is to comply with the FCA Rules which will be scrutinised by the higher authorities on a case to case basis in a time bound manner than the open ended FRA where the higher authorities are not bothered to monitor on a case by case basis of recognition of approved rights by the Gram Sabha. In addition, the former is service to the influential affluent while the latter to the common folk.
28 October 2014 MoEFCC grants District Collectors unilateral powers to sanction diversion of forest land in areas notified as ‘forest’ less than 75 years prior to 13 December 2005 and with no record of tribal population as per Census 2001 and 2011. MoEFCC does not have the authority to issue such an order exempting FRA. Whether rights exist or not can only be determined through the process under FRA. The assumption that these are areas free from any claims to forest rights are simply absurd as rights under FRA are on all forest lands irrespective of whether tribal population are recorded there or not; in fact, in most such cases the area may be accessed for livelihood by eligible forest dwellers from adjacent habitations.
12 January 2015 MoEFCC issues guideline exempting five categories of projects from obtaining the Gram Sabha consent where statutory consultations were carried out that require public hearing for environmental clearance MoEFCC is not vested with the authority over FRA. Neither does FRA provide scope for any exemption
11 August 2015 MoEFCC issues guidelines declaring its intention to lease out 40 percent of forests classified as ‘degraded forests’, to private companies through joint agreements with the Forest Department, to ‘carry out afforestation and extract timber’, with access to 10-15 percent of the leased-out area for Minor Forest Produce to tribal communities. FRA is applicable to degraded forests. Where rights are claimed and recognised, the Gram Sabha is the statutory authority to manage the forest. Leasing out such forest lands without Gram Sabha consent for afforestation and timber extraction is a violation of FRA. The MoEFCC and Forest Department do not have the power to decide on any matters regarding Minor Forest Produce in Scheduled Areas as PESA provides for ownership rights in Scheduled Area and FRA, in addition, vested forest rights to forest dwellers across the country.
03 August 2016

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016.

This Act provides for the establishment of funds with the monies received from the user agencies towards compensatory afforestation, additional compensatory afforestation, penal compensatory afforestation, net present value and all other amounts recovered from such agencies under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and an authority at the central and state level to administer the funds and utilise them.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India; Report No.: 21 of 2013 – Compliance Audit on Compensatory Afforestation in India, Union Government, Ministry of Environment and Forests (Report Tabled on 06 September 2013) states: ‘We noticed serious shortcomings in regulatory issues related to diversion of forest land, the abject failure to promote compensatory afforestation, the unauthorised diversion of forest land in the case of mining and the attendant violation of the environmental regime’.
8 November 2017 MoEFCC issues guidelines allowing the states to create Land Banks by identifying ‘degraded forest land’ and ‘revenue lands, zudpi jungle, chota jhar, bada jhar ke jungle’ (used for nistar rights by local communities) for compensatory afforestation under FCA 1980. There is no reference to FRA, forest rights, acquisition of forest rights, compensation, Gram Sabha consent etc. This is a violation of FRA and 03 Aug 2009 letter of MoEFCC on compliance with FRA in forest diversion. Over 2.68 million hectares of land were identified in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamilnadu, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
26 February 2019 MoEFCC issues further clarification to Principal Secretary (Forest) of all States on compliance of FRA for forest diversion under FCA 1980. FRA compliance is not necessary for an ‘in-principle’ Stage – I approval for forest diversion. Gram Sabha consent would be required only at the time of final approval (Stage -2). The District Collector is to complete the process of recognition and vesting of forest rights as per FRA, obtain consent from the Gram Sabha having jurisdiction over the whole or part of the forest land proposed for diversion and forward the findings to the Conservator of Forests within the time period stipulated in the FCA Rules. This makes a mockery of MoEFCC own order of 03 August 2009 on FRA compliance in forest diversion under FCA. The continuous step by step undoing of its own order has been carried out through amendments to FCA Rules.
05 March 2019 MoTA responds to the above MoEFCC clarification opposing this change. MoTA informs the Dy Inspector General of Forests, MoEFCC that MoTA’s view was communicated after discussion with MoEFCC on 14.12.2015 and on 12.01.2018 and ‘the views arrived at / decisions reached with regard to obtaining FRA clearance in respect of project was that ‘while MoEFCC had maintained that it would be required to be obtained by project proponent at stage II of FCA clearance, the view of MoTA is that this would prove to be fait accompli as by that time the project would have made sufficient progress and the tribals living in the forest area earmarked for use by project would be put to a great disadvantage…. that mutually agreed / decided views (between MoEFCC & MoTA) to the effect that, proof of having initiated FRA clearance process should be produced at the point of going in for stage I FCA clearance…have not been kept in view by MoEFCC while issuing circular dated 26.2.2019‘ and that FCA Amendment Rules 2016 ‘talks of compliance of FRA before stage I‘ and that ‘MoEFCC’s said circular dated 26.2.2019…has not been endorsed to MoTA‘. MoTA responds with a factual and legal counter to the subversion of FRA through manipulation under FCA.
11 October 2019 MoEFCC informs the Principal Secretaries (Forest) of all States that ‘temporary work in forest land…by a firm, person or organisation’ which does not create rights over such forest land… will not require prior approval or Central Government under FC Act 1980‘. The approval for this can be given by an officer not below the rank of DFO under whose jurisdiction the area falls. The order is silent on FRA and Gram Sabha consent as there is likelihood of rights holders under FRA, and therefore violates FRA and may violate the 03 Aug 2009 MoEFCC order on forest diversion.
10 January 2020 While affirming the earlier letter of 11 October 2019 on temporary permission to use forests, MoEFCC further clarified that it should be ‘unavoidable public purposes and of emergent nature‘, and such use should not exceed two weeks and that there are no alternate non-forest land for the purpose. As above
05 January 2017 and 31 March 2020

The Ministry of Mines issued a circular in January 2017 to the State governments stating that MoTA is not ‘insisting on FRA compliance for grant of lease’ for mining but instead it is enough that FRA compliance be incorporated into the mining lease deeds for forest clearance by MoEFCC.

MoEFCC issues guidelines under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, in pursuance of the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 to Forest Secretary (Forests) of all States: in March 2020 stating that the environment ministry agreed with the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act 2020 that new lessees of expired mines do not need fresh approval–and therefore do not need the Gram Sabha consent–to operate on the same land for two years.

FRA compliance as per the 2009 MoEFCC order on forest diversion under FCA 1980 is mandatory. MoTA had made it clear that FRA does not provide scope for any exemption in forest diversion

The legality of this is questionable for in effect on expiry of the lease, the land would be subject to the applicable legal regime which is FRA and compliance with FRA for forest clearance.

The Ministry of Mines is taking cue from MoEFCC to dilute FRA compliance and Gram Sabha consent in forest diversion for mining.

Tiger Reserves
03 September 2006 The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act was enacted to provide statutory status to the Tiger Reserves (which until then was an administrative category), including the institutional set up and procedures for notification. Sec.38 V of this Act provided the procedures to be adopted for demarcating and notifying the Tiger Reserves including matters related to forest dwellers and their rights. This section was similar in intent and content to the provision of Critical Wildlife of FRA, which was in the final stages of being enacted..
16 November 2007 The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a wing of MoEFCC, dispatched a ‘Most Urgent’ order to the Chief Wildlife Wardens of all Tiger Reserves asking for proposals for identification and notification of core or Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs) before 29 November 2007 with a minimum area of 800-1000 sq kms, while the proposals for the buffer area were to be sent by 31 January 2008. The order gave in effect less than 13 days for the proposal for CTH; no ‘scientific and objective criteria’ was formulated by MoEFCC as required under Section 38V(4)(i) of WLPA, all the provisions were in effect violated, the existing core area and buffer area of the Tiger Reserves were invariably proposed as CTH and notified 31 Tiger Reserves securing 29,25,202 hectares in a breakneck speed before the end of 2007 in order to beat the notification of FRA Rules on 01 January 2008 which made no sense.
28 March 2017 NTCA issues a direction barring recognition of rights under FRA in the Critical Tiger Habitats of Tiger Reserves ‘in the absence guidelines for notification of critical wildlife habitat’ under FRA which MoEFCC was to issue. This violated the provisions under Sec.38 V of the WLPA 1972 as amended in 2006 under which the Tiger Reserves are notified as forest rights are to be recognised in Tiger Reserves and FRA which also require that rights are to be recognised in Tiger Reserves. The Critical Tiger Habitats of Tiger Reserves now cover an area of 4,014,530 hectares
04 January 2018 MoEFCC issues ‘Guidelines for notification of Critical Wildlife Habitat Sec. 2(b) of FRA defines ‘critical wildlife habitat’ as ‘such areas of National Parks and Sanctuaries where it has been specifically and clearly established, case by case, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of wildlife conservation as may be determined and notified by the Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests after open process of consultation by an Expert Committee, which includes experts from the locality appointed by that Government wherein a representative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs shall also be included, in determining such areas according to the procedural requirements arising from sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 4.’
12 March 2018 NTCA issues an order in suppression of its earlier order on ban on rights in CTH dated 28.3.2017 in view of the notification of the Guidelines for CWH by MoEFCC on 04 January 2018. This order, in effect, legitimises its earlier illegal order unequivocally.
20 May 2019 MoEFCC orders that where there are no suitable revenue land for those who are to be relocated from CTH, National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries, then they shall be relocated on forest land to the extent vacated on the forest fringes equal in extent of the land ‘vacated by the settlers‘ ‘after extinguishing all existing rights….forest land shall be considered for change in legal status of the forest land on case to case basis as per the provisions under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980‘. Grants approval to change the legal status of forest land to revenue land in 122 villages in 18 States where relocation has taken place. Existing forest rights, whether recognised or not are not acquired and so no compensation.
12 July 2019 14,441 families (25.17%) of 57,386 families in 50 tiger reserves were relocated. 42,398 families remain in the CTH. Of the recorded 2,808 forest villages, 334 are located within these CTHs. The funds available for compensatory afforestation are also now available and used for ‘voluntary relocation’. The Rs.10 lakh package per family Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger of 2012 was increased to Rs.15 lakh per family vide NTCA order of 08.04.2021. Relocation without recognising all forest rights under FRA, without settling compensating these rights, and without providing ‘secure livelihood’ as required by Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA) read with FRA from Tiger Reserves is illegal. The Tiger Reserves were notified without in violation of all the provisions under Sec.38 V of WLPA. The word ‘inviolate’ is misinterpreted to mean relocating the inhabitants instead of protection from being violated or harmed. Moreover, relocation is only when coexistence of any kind is not possible and that too only from critical wildlife habitats (CWHs) notified under FRA. The Union environment ministry issued CWH guidelines only in 2018. Till date MoEFCC has not notified any CWH. What distinguishes CWH is that once notified as CWH, this will be the only forest area that the law does not permit. The relocations are recorded as ‘voluntary relocation’ even where there are protests and violence.
December 2020 The National Tiger Conservation Authority, MoEFCC, issued a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with stray/feral dogs in Tiger Reserves to contain the threat of dogs on wildlife in Tiger Reserves. In over half the forests in the country, the Gram Sabha under Sec.5 (a) of FRA is now the authority to protect wildlife. The order has been issued ignoring the law.